Part Two of a Three Part Series of Blogs: So, you want a record deal?Disclaimer: This blog is not about a particular person. It's stories that have been collected and consolidated. The sole purpose of this blog is to educate youth.
In my last blog, I talked about having a song on iTunes and doing your first mini radio tour. You will do many mini radio tours, and big ones also. I loved radio tours. I loved meeting the people who were playing my music and entertaining their loyal listeners. Spending time with radio people is probably the most important part of the job. Of course, you must be good to the fans but you better be VERY good to the radio people.
So now you have a single climbing the charts. You may not get booked a lot when you're single is in the Top 40, or even in the Top 30. Although it's the booking agent's job to book paying shows for you, they also want to get as much money from the buyer, a.k.a. promoter, as they can. If they book you when your song is in the top 30, they will not get as much money from the promoter as they will if they wait until your song is in the top 20, etc. The higher your song gets on the chart means more people will likely show up and buy tickets … and beer.
Therefore, your booking agent will work directly with your manager and the record label — constantly checking the pulse of your song. If your label thinks your song will reach #1, they will let the manager and booking agent know. The manager and agent may, or may not, take the risk and wait to book you. It's a gamble.
The worst-case scenario is for your manager and booking agent to wait to book you for a $10,000 gig and your song never reaches the top 20. The promoter pulls their $7,500 offer and says they'll only book you for $5,000 since your song stalled and is on its way back down the charts.
Now, the promoter is also watching the charts and checking the pulse of your song. If they think your song will go to #1, they will try to book you as soon as possible at the cheapest rate to avoid paying the rate they will pay when your song reaches #1.
So now you're booked at the BFE County Fair. The promoter booked you for $7,500 when your song was just climbing the chart. Then your song goes to #1, eighteen weeks later, and the show sells out. The promoter makes a ton of money. You net $40 — if you're lucky.
You can't play in that area for at least another six months due to a radius clause. In other words, other venues and buyers will not book you in that area because you just played there. So, not only did you lose on the $7,500 gig, you lost a second gig in that area.
Six months later, your #1 song is off the charts and hopefully, you are working on your second hit. If this is the case then you might get booked again in that area at the other venue.
If you don't have a second hit, chances are you will not get booked in the area at the other venue, and you will get dropped from the record label.
Since you didn't earn much money the first time around — because you played every fair date for $7,500 — you are in debt. If you don't have a second hit single, you are in debt and also without a record deal. This scenario happens practically every time the chart grinds through a top 40 cycle.
So you've played 40 fair dates, and you're working on a second single that looks like its going to be another hit, and a major artist wants you to go on tour with them. The record label and your management team go "ape-crap" because this is a great opportunity for you to get massive exposure. The only downside is you're back to playing for free or even having to pay the major artist for allowing you to open for them. Usually, the record label will foot this money because you're so broke you can hardly buy beans. Don't forget, you will have to pay this loan, know as "tour support," back out of the nine cents from downloads and all your T-shirt, hat and keychain sales, and any endorsements you get. (See my first blog for the breakdown.)
What about all the fair dates that were booked? You had 200 fair dates booked at $10,000 each. Well, those were canceled because you agreed to go on this national tour and open for a major artist. Oh, and by the way, you may not be opening up for them on the same main stage. The major artist wants you to perform on the small stage in the parking lot, at Entry Gate F, around 4:30 PM. Usually, everyone's getting off of work at five, so no one will be standing in front of your stage.
That's where you will spend that entire summer, playing to an empty parking lot. And since you didn't sell any merch, and there's not a lot of press covering the parking lot, you're essentially out of sight and out of mind. And you're making nothing off of your single or building a fan base — but you're still responsible for selling records, paying all your overhead: your sound guy, road manager, bus driver, band, manager … etc. Now, I've only seen this scenario a few times. It's not always this bad.
Recap: You had a big song on the chart. You were getting a lot of attention. A major artist noticed this and offered you a slot on their tour. They basically took you out of the spotlight for an entire summer, with barely any cost to them, and you got absolutely nothing out of it. If you don't have a second single, this means you performed at Entry Gate F for the entire summer and lost every opportunity to capitalize on a hit song.
I personally believe the best-case scenario is, if you have a number one hit song, play those fair dates. Make as much money as you possibly can off of that song and start paying off your debt. Build your fan-base on those fair dates. A lot of music executives, managers etc. will disagree with me on this particular point —and I can see their side also—but they're not the ones who are going to pay your light bill when they drop you.